Barack Obama has announced the relaxation of rules and restrictions for US citizens who travel to Cuba, and it held some very good news for cigar and rum aficionados.


Cuban rum and cigars, which were strictly illegal in the US during the half-century embargo of the island nation can now be brought back to the US by travelers in the same quantities that would be allowed from other countries. The change is a result of an executive order signed by Barack Obama, who is accelerating efforts to normalize relationships between the two countries before he leaves office in January.

“Challenges remain – and very real differences between our governments persist on issues of democracy and human rights – but I believe that engagement is the best way to address those differences and make progress on behalf of our interests and values,” Obama said in a statement.

Americans who have visited the island since diplomatic relationships were resumed between the two nations in late 2014 were previously allowed to come back with up to $100 of the products. Today’s visitors now face no such restrictions, so long as the purchase is for personal use.

Ladies hanging out on Obispo Street in Havana, Cuba. PHOTO: Emily Assiran/New York Observer

The Obama administration has announced the relaxation of rules and restrictions for US citizens who travel to Cuba, and it held some very good news for cigar and rum aficionados.

Cuban rum and cigars, which were strictly illegal in the US during the half-century embargo of the island nation can now be brought back to the US by travelers in the same quantities that would be allowed from other countries. The change is a result of an executive order signed by Barack Obama, who is accelerating efforts to normalize relationships between the two countries before he leaves office in January.

“Challenges remain – and very real differences between our governments persist on issues of democracy and human rights – but I believe that engagement is the best way to address those differences and make progress on behalf of our interests and values,” Obama said in a statement.

Americans who have visited the island since diplomatic relationships were resumed between the two nations in late 2014 were previously allowed to come back with up to $100 of the products.

Today’s visitors now face no such restrictions, so long as the purchase is for personal use.




PARTAGAS

Partagas is a strong Cuban cigar, the most popular size of which is the Serie D. “It’s very heavy,” Nick said. “Earthy, peppery flavors, blended with a robust tobacco taste.”

COHIBA

The Cohiba, the more expensive of the brands—$60 to $70 a piece—is rumored to be the cigar rolled specifically for Fidel Castro. Cohibas were originally offered as gifts between diplomatic heads of state. Extra fermented, the finished cigar is aged and “has an unmistakable, very pleasant, grassy taste,” Nick said, “with flavors of vanilla and cocoa and coffee.”

“It’s the cream, I would say, of the crop,” Nick told us. “If you have a lot of money, you’re going to buy the Cohiba.”

PUNCH

Punch has a long history, having been registered in 1840 by a German. “It has a pleasant, woody flavor,” Nick said, “a very subtle, woody sweetness with a medium tobacco taste blended perfectly for excellent balance.”

ROMEO Y JULIETA

These cigars don’t need a long aging period to appreciate, according to Nick. They contain “every flavor imaginable—floral and nutty, herbal and tangy, fruity and woody,” Nick said. “Besides being rich and complex, they’re not particularly tannic.”

BOLIVAR

Bolivars, which are earthy, tangy and fruity all at the same, with a strong tobacco taste, are not for beginners, Nick told us: “They’re strong and earthy, and you may have a reaction—some people get sick, and some people get flushed. You need to be careful and smoke it slowly. A beginner will most likely just puff, puff, puff.”

MONTECRISTO

The best-selling cigar in the world, these cigars can be enjoyed by novice and veteran cigar smokers alike. “Tangy, pleasant flavor, fruity, sweet, with a heavy presence of bean flavors, like cocoa and coffee and vanilla,” Nick said. “They’re all blended with a medium tobacco taste.”

H. UPMANN

John F. Kennedy’s favorite cigar. The night before he signed the embargo in 1962, Kennedy sent press secretary Pierre Salinger to snatch up every box of them he could in the D.C. area. “Deceitfully mild and bland when they’re young,” is how Nick put it. The tobacco taste is enhanced with time, and they are best smoked—for a cleaner, stronger taste—after 10 to 15 years of aging.


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